Blood on the (Bain) tracks
By Pepe Escobar. Asia Times. – This is the moment everyone was waiting for in the 2012 US presidential campaign; the hardcore drawing of first blood.
Whatever one’s judgment on Nobel Peace Prize winner and warmonger US President Barack Obama, technically this is an absolute masterpiece of political advertising. It deserves an Oscar for sound editing alone.
It may be over the top – as it strives for maximum, compressed, Hellfire missile political impact; but the ad’s charges are fundamentally correct. Republican presidential contender and corporate cyborg Mitt Romney was involved in practices that outsourced jobs and contributed to enlarge the ranks of US unemployment. There couldn’t be a more sensitive theme in a US electoral year.
Romney’s frantic response stressed he was never responsible for any of it because he had already left his Bain vulture capital firm at the time (he was one of the co-founders).
Not really. Independent US websites such as Mother Jones and Talking Points Memo pursued the story – and even mainstream media picked it up with relish. These are the money quotes from a Boston Globe article:
Government documents filed by Mitt Romney and Bain Capital say Romney remained chief executive and chairman of the firm three years beyond the date he said he ceded control, even creating five new investment partnerships during that time.
Romney has said he left Bain in 1999 to lead the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, ending his role in the company. But public Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) documents filed later by Bain Capital state he remained the firm’s “sole stockholder, chairman of the board, chief executive officer, and president.”
Also, a Massachusetts financial disclosure form Romney filed in 2003 states that he still owned 100 percent of Bain Capital in 2002. And Romney’s state financial disclosure forms indicate he earned at least $100,000 as a Bain “executive” in 2001 and 2002, separate from investment earnings.
The timing of Romney’s departure from Bain is a key point of contention because he has said his resignation in February 1999 meant he was not responsible for Bain Capital companies that went bankrupt or laid off workers after that date. 
Translation, if any was needed; the Republican candidate to become the next president of the United States lied.
I’m not a crook – retroactively
Undeterred – or in classic headless chicken fashion – the Romney campaign came up with a response that has already become a new American pop hit; Romney had “retired retroactively” to 1999, according to spokesman Ed Gillespie.
There’s no evidence though that Romney “retroactively” returned the US$100,000-a-year salary he received while “retired”.
From a legal point of view, CEOs are where the buck effectively stops. It doesn’t matter if they are full-time managers, part-time managers or even retroactively retired managers.
Here’s what one of Romney’s own partners at Bain Capital – from 1993 to 2007 – had to say about this:
“Mitt’s names were on the documents as the chief executive and sole owner of the company.” The partner was asked – again – if Romney was the CEO of Bain Capital from 1999 to 2002. His answer; “Legally, on documents, I suppose, yes.”
Once again in the words of his own partner, Romney remained as CEO while negotiating the terms of a juicy exit; “We had to negotiate with Mitt because he was an owner of the firm.”
So here we have a certified member of the 1% who made a huge fortune with leveraged buyouts that ended up destroying the value of different companies, cost a vast number of jobs and ultimately eroded the US economic base – while he squeezed a juicy commission out of it all; he’s now running a presidential campaign against, in his own words, the “Obama economy”, the source of all evils, while promoting himself as a savvy business man who can create jobs.
Yet how, with a straight face, can Mitt Romney swear that he’s responsible for absolutely nothing that happened at his vulture capital gig after 1999, while he insists that absolutely everything that happened after January 2009, when Obama took charge of the Bush-era total economic and financial disaster, is the president’s fault?
And how, with a straight face, can Romney swear again and again he was not accountable for anything that happened at his firm even when he remained as its CEO; what kind of accountable president would that be?
And then, when he’s caught lying, the best he can come up with is an extended Nixonian “I’m not a crook” moment in the form of a blitzkrieg of every US network and cable station in sight.
For large swathes of US voters though, Mitt as tax cheat is a label now inscribed in stone. Waves of converging punditry are adamant that the only way to remedy the disaster would be for him to release his tax returns for the past 12 years. There’s no evidence he will do it – because that could probably, overwhelmingly, confirm the Obama campaign ad.
Yet this political Hellfire missile goes way beyond Mitt and Bain. Mitt Romney the unaccountable corporate cyborg couldn’t be a more graphic representation of the Masters of the Universe – the key financial engineers of the destruction of the US economy and the American middle class, while the wealthy are lavishly sheltered from every storm. Welcome to the land of the un-free, home of the bravely unaccountable.
Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).
He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org